Monday, March 26, 2012

Plus/Minus has ESPN or something

Last week, I had this urge to find tickets to Friday's Habs-Sens game and go with the guys I work with who are Ottawa fans. (It's because they're from Ottawa.) They didn't want to go, so I didn't look for tickets. Then the Habs basically ended the game in the first period. I guess we're all psychic?


+ Erik Cole hat trick!
+ Ryan White has been playing with even more attitude than usual lately. If he doesn't get picked up for next season soon, I may need therapy.
+ Nice pun, Canadiens website.
+ Thanks, NFL, for your quarterback circle of life. It was very entertaining. Welcome to the Jets, Tim Tebow.
+ To the Miami Heat players who have been brave enough to speak out about the unjust death of Trayvon Martin. I love it when athletes stand up for what they believe is right.
+ If you haven't been listening to The Kaufman Show on TSN 990, you missed a great, honest, candid interview with Patrick Burke about the You Can Play project. I can't wait to see the new PSA's they've got coming up.
EDIT: + J.T. Wyman - yes, that one - scored a game-winning goal tonight.

- Habs, you have to stop getting shut out by Buffalo. It hurts me more than it hurts you.
- So, they're building that new arena in Quebec City, and I believe the government is pitching in, and no one's protesting. Damn it, people, you protest against everything else. But the provincial government spending money on something that private investors would gladly put their money into? No? Cool story, bro.
- To every person who has made a "Sedin sisters" comment recently. (Can't call them jokes, because they're not funny.) I wish I could scream some sense into you, but unfortunately all I can do is give you this lousy minus.

The season might be winding down, but there's plenty of time for more hat tricks!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favor

After hearing about it for ages, I finally got around to reading The Hunger Games. I love it. I have gasped very loudly at certain plot twists, regardless of whether I was alone or in public.
So, obviously, I needed to write a post combining The Hunger Games and hockey. So, how would some of the NHL's biggest names do if they were selected at the reaping?

General Managers
Brian Burke would be a force to be reckoned with, like a Career Tribute. If anyone is crazy enough to play this game, not only for survival, but for glory, it would be him. He'd tell his stylists how to dress him. He'd be memorable in his interview. And once the Games started, he'd have no problem killing anyone who got in his way. My only worry would be if one bad decision set him back.

Pierre Gauthier is a vegetarian, so I guess he's used to starving. He'd do all right foraging for berries or subsisting on tree bark. If he's ruthless enough to trade a player during a game, there's no telling what he might do in the arena, so I wouldn't count him out.

Steve Yzerman would survive by taking all of Pierre Gauthier's best supplies.

Dean Lombardi would probably make some terrible decisions. Unless he allies himself with someone stronger and smarter, he's in trouble.

Sidney Crosby would make it pretty far - I have no idea if he knows how to set a snare or use a weapon, but Mario Lemieux would make sure that his sponsors bail him out of every situation he finds himself in. After all, Sidney Crosby and sponsors go hand-in-hand.

Ilya Bryzgalov would probably score pretty high with the Gamemakers, then get distracted the second he arrives in the arena and be dead within an hour.

Saku Koivu has survived 1000 NHL games, eye injuries, cancer, and being a non-francophone captain of the Montreal Canadiens. His only problem? He's probably too nice to kill anyone.

Why do I get the impression that Daniel Carcillo would be that guy who ate his kills?

Max Pacioretty is indestructible. He can survive anything. The sponsors, the Gamemakers, and the people of Panem would love him. He'll do great as long as a certain Boston-based ogre isn't in the Games.

Actually, all of the Bruins would probably kill everyone in their path, just for fun. I'm reluctant to say this but maybe we should bet on them.

Thoughts on who'd win if the NHL was Panem? Hunger Games/hockey inspired photoshop projects? Hugs for the next time something bad happens? That's what the comments are for! (I'm about two-thirds through Catching Fire. No spoilers, please.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For love of which game?

There are lots of things I still don't understand about being a sports fan. Like, for example, how being a sports fan is apparently a game in itself, and you always need to win. Rivalries between teams is one thing - rivalries between sports is another. So let me see if I've got this right:

Hockey fans hate basketball.
Basketball fans hate hockey.
Anyone who doesn't watch the NBA hates the NBA. (But might love college basketball and then, I don't know, disown a player once he starts playing pro?)
Montrealers who don't watch hockey hate the Habs.
Non-Montrealers who do watch hockey hate the Habs.
Baseball fans hate soccer.
Hockey players love baseball. And golf.
No one hates baseball. (Except me, because I don't want to watch it on TV all day every day?)
Don Cherry hates hockey fans. (Along with clouds, chocolate chip cookies, rainbows, smiles, and puppies.)
All sports fans hate their league's commissioner.

Maybe I should make flowcharts to help me keep track.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Plus/Minus: Expect the unexpected (in the form of a high-five)

Andrei Markov was on the ice. Lars Eller got into fighting words with Erik Karlsson? Ryan White celebrated a birthday. Brian Gionta had some St. Patrick's Day fun. Proof that it can be a good week even if your hockey team loses.

+ Congratulations on 1000 NHL games to always-our-captain Saku Koivu.
+ Josh Gorges has blocked over 200 shots this season. Holy crap. If Pacioretty is Wolverine, which superhero is Gorges? (Someone with X-Men knowledge, help me out here?)
+ Erik Cole high-fiving a ref is the kind of stuff that Plus/Minus was made for. But everyone was way too excited about it happening to notice how hilariously nonchalant he was about the whole thing. It's all in the execution.
+ Congratulations on your first NHL goal, Paloosh!
+ So, Randy Cunneyworth is not René Bourque's biggest fan. Giving him a vote of confidence by putting him in a shootout? I'm not used to this. Are coaches people too?
+2 Congratulations to the Montreal Impact on scoring their first goal as a Major League Soccer team, for scoring record attendance for a soccer game in Canada, and to the female commentator on RDS who gets to cover one of the biggest Montreal sports moments in recent years.
+ Will Arnett's character on Up All Night said "I made a huge mistake." It made me so happy.

- Markov took a puck to the face. Please, no more. No more injuries. We can't handle it!
- I appreciate that my team is trying to give me as much free hockey as possible before the season ends, but all this overtime is stressing me out.

EDIT: A Plus for the news that Jean Béliveau's health is improving after his stroke.
A Minus to those new Black Ice jerseys - they look like what a Pitbull remix sounds like.

There's less than a month left in the season. These coming weeks are going to feel like Mardi Gras: I'm going to watch as much Habs hockey as I can before there isn't any more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy 314 Day!

It's our annual celebration of our love for Pleks and Carey. Love you guys!
Not even Pleks could miss this day. He showed up to work late, but he still showed up, because it's a special occasion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Five years.

Five years ago today, on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007, I walked into the Bell Centre wearing a Canadiens T-shirt. For the first time.

My friend Caroline offered me her extra ticket to a Habs-Islanders game. We sat in the Club Desjardins section, thanks to her dad's corporate season tickets. I bought my Koivu shirt that day. Koivu was awarded the Molson Cup for the previous month. The Habs won.

I still don't think I know everything about hockey, but I definitely know more than I did before that game. Back then, Czechtacular and I were just friends-in-law: our mutual friends joked to me that she could teach me everything I needed to know about the Habs before I went to the game. I took them seriously. My Facebook message to her was answered with a series of messages that, when printed out, took up three pages. She answered everything from "Does Guy Carbonneau hate Russians?" to "Are there midfielders in hockey?" to "I know some of the guys' jersey numbers but who are the rest of them?"

Yeah. I wasn't kidding with this Rookie thing.

Here are a few excerpts from the cheat sheet that Czechtacular wrote up for me five long years ago:

#8, Michael Komisarek [...] basically he just freaking ROCKS. 

#20, Mike Johnson, right wing.

#26, Josh Gorges, defense. We just got him at the trade deadline in exchange for Craig Rivet so I don't know too much about him. He's just "the new guy."

#30, David Aebischer, goalie. [...] He tends to flop all around his crease... (I had no idea what any of those words meant.)

#32, Mark Streit, defense/winger. He's come into his own this year.

#35, Tomas Plekanec, centre. Uhm this paragraph may be long because he's my favourite player. (She wasn't joking, either. It's a hell of a paragraph. I learned so much about Tomas Plekanec that day.)

I read and re-read those pages throughout the day, and took them with me to the game. A lot has change in the last five years: New guy Josh Gorges is now one of the most important players on the team. Captain and Molson Cup winner Saku Koivu just played his 1000th NHL game. I've learned more than a few things about hockey. The team, the fans who have so graciously taught me everything I know about the game, and I have grown and changed a lot in these five years.

In an interesting twist of fate, I get to walk into the Bell Centre again tonight. Thank you, Black Keys, for scheduling a concert on Tuesday, March 13th. It'll feel like coming home.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Plus/Minus returns from a monthlong hiatus

Sorry, readers. Somehow a month has passed since the last Plus/Minus. Blame Jeremy Lin, or the Hal Gill trade, or my inexplicably exhausting professional life. (I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I'm an international superspy. You're welcome.) How to even Plus or Minus a month's worth of things?

+ It feels good to say that Max Pacioretty has a 30-goal season. He's playing to the potential we always knew he had, and he's showing an incredible amount of class. We couldn't be prouder of him.
+ to Blake Geoffrion, so bashful and yet so proud to be playing for the storied Montreal Canadiens. And scoring his first goal as a Hab!
+ Glad to have Markov back.
+ 3 High school hockey player Jack Jablonski is making incredible progress after a life-threatening injury. And another Plus to the hockey community for supporting him. And an extra big Plus to his team for winning the Minnesota state championship.
+ The Columbus Blue Jackets might just treat their fans better than any other team in the NHL. They have fun with social media and their "Get a Johnson nameplate for your Carter jersey" promotion was hysterical.
+ I'll never understand why, in 2012, we live in a world that needs to be reminded of things like gay rights, but I'll support any campaign that I need to in order to make this world a better place. The You Can Play project is basically perfect. It's honest, inspiring, perfectly executed, and not even a little bit fake or saccharine. It's everything that "Hockey Is For Everyone" should be. Take note, NHL.
+ Proof that things do get better: I loved the series over at Puck Buddys about a high school hockey player who made the brave decision to come out not only to his friends and teammates, but to his entire school. He - and his teammates - could just set the precedent for other gay teens to have the strength to do the same.
+ I guess "Linsanity" has died down a little, either because all of the puns have been made, or because people are expecting him to be even more superhuman than he's already been. That being said: JEREMY LIN! So good at basketball! Such a sweet guy! So nerdy!
+ I'm not cheating on hockey with basketball, I swear, it's just that NBA All Star weekend is one of my favourite sporting events of the entire year, and this year, jumping over people was the big trend at the slam dunk competition. One of those people was Diddy. So, yeah, it was pretty cool.
+ I don't know why I found it so funny that Lindsay Lohan played herself in a "Scared Straight" sketch on SNL, and used "Sidney Crosby" as an insult. But I laughed.

- Someone needs to fix Jonathan Toews' concussion right now.
- Habs fans are never happy. They complain that so many players on this team are so terrible, and then are disappointed that almost nothing happened at the trade deadline. We can't be sellers if no one's buying.
- The "Canucks fans" who defaced the outside of Milan Lucic's church need to be found and punished. Or, if no one finds them, whatever, I'll just get on my high horse right now and tell them they're going to Hell.
- ugh, Los Angeles, why would you reunite Carter and Richards in a city with more excess than Philadelphia? Stop trying to be the Flyers. Just be yourself. It's all that you can do.
- When Sports Illustrated comes in the mail every week, I usually have to cross my fingers and hope that its pages will hold more than three sentences' worth of hockey coverage. It should come as no surprise that they foolishly think "puck bunnies" is a term used to describe all female hockey fans. What would they call male fans of women's tennis? Just wondering.

Other bloggers have written great pieces on the Sports Illustrated "puck bunny" mess. There might not be anything else left to say about it. But reading their pieces has made me want to write more often than just once a month.

Also, if you haven't heard the news, Czechtacular has started a side project called Seven Thousand Volts. Go to it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What to say to Andrei Markov

Andrei Markov is making his return to NHL ice tonight, after a series of injury-related setbacks that spilled more ink than should have been appropriate.
I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but if you're wondering what to say about his return to the game, here's what to say:

"Welcome back, Andrei. We missed you."

Simple as that. No need to cause drama or wonder whether the season would have been better or worse if he came back earlier or never at all, or how much money was wasted, or any of that. Just welcome him back, because he's still the Andrei Markov we used to watch and cheer for and love.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Things We Do For Max Pacioretty

Last week I spent so much time at work that all I wanted to do was spend all of my non-office hours on my couch.

Until, of course, I got a text message on Thursday from a friend asking if I was interested in volunteering at the Max Pacioretty Foundation charity poker tournament on Friday. Was I interested? She should have known the answer to that question already. I was so interested that over the next 30 hours, instead of trying to relax, sleep, and have a normal day at work, I...

Ransacked my closet and makeup case to follow the one instruction I was given: "Dress to impress." Prepared a bag for makeup and a garment bag for my "to impress" dress. Did not sleep, because I was too excited.

Became a poster child for office efficiency. Typed faster than I have ever typed before. Jumped up and down in my desk chair. Ran out of the office at 4:50-something, apologizing profusely, never looking back.

Jumped into my "to impress" dress, accessorized, lint-rolled, and make-upped as quickly as I possibly could, all the time swearing like an angry Ryan White.

Said hi to Tony Marinaro and found out that he is both the driving force behind this fundraiser and a huge celebrity in Lasalle.

Stopped breathing for a second when I realized that the two guys who walked in were Max Pacioretty and Raphael Diaz. They said hi in our general direction before being ushered off to someplace.

Welcomed a few more guests (some VIPs, some regular humans like myself.) Czechtacular stamped Chris Nilan's hand.

Some of the sports memorabilia at the silent auction.
Yes, that autographed replica Stanley Cup comes with its own NHL tablecloth.

Was asked to sell tickets for a 50/50 raffle. Somehow just naturally approached severyone from Saskatchewan transplants to mustachioed local sportscasters and convinced them to spend $10 on a raffle ticket, and somehow all of those 10s added up to $1300.

Sat down and listened to Annakin Slayd perform "MTL Stand Up" - in the presence of Max Pacioretty. You know that fuzzy feeling you get when you listen to it? It was multiplied tenfold, and I couldn't even see the stage.

Watched as a soccer team of 9 and 10 year olds (part of the night's proceeds went to fund their trip to a soccer clinic), got called into the reception hall one by one like a team walking into a championship game.

Listened to Max Pacioretty accept a warm welcome and make a speech. I'm not sure if he prepared it ahead of time because it sounded like he winged it, like he was speaking from the heart. It sounded like he appreciates us more than we love him.

Remembered that the night Pacioretty was hit by Chara, I went to the TSN 990 studios and Tony Marinaro stayed in-studio with us to help take calls and try to get news about Max's progress. Now here I was, almost a year later, in the same room as both of them. It was unreal.

Went to the gaming floor to help with buy-ins. I know nothing about poker, but I put on a lime-green pinnie that looked like it was dyed by the Joker himself, filled a hand with chips, and pretended I knew how to be a poker wench.

Planted myself next to Czechtacular when she found the best spot for poker-wenching whilst surreptitiously watching Chris Nilan's and Max Pacioretty's tables. Marveled at every facial expression Patches and Diaz made. I have no poker face.

Gasped when my friend Robyn sold chips to Patches himself.

Watched Chris Nilan win and rake in a load of chips, just like in the movies.
Those piles of chips? Property of Knuckles Nilan.
Offered Czechtacular $20 to walk up to Patches and hug him. She didn't.

Compensated for my shyness around Patches and Diaz by speaking to Randy Tieman and his mustache. (By the way, I have a great Randy Tieman story for another day.)

Called it a night after buy-ins ended and went home, thinking that if there were a few more Max Paciorettys in this world, it would be a better place.